the Bank Statement
(The Bank Statement is also available as a PDF document.)
The Tissue Bank acts as an
essential resource for scientists conducting research into MS. In addition to
raising our profile in the MS community, we have also been promoting the
Tissue Bank in the scientific community. Consequently we are now supplying tissue
to a total of 27 research projects. These studies are being conducted in
institutions across the globe from America
but our preference is to supply tissue to projects being carried out in the
country from which the donors were recruited. Each of the 27 projects can be
assigned to one of five main categories and any one donation can provide
enough tissue for a number of projects in some or all of the five groups.
of research using tissue
Since there is not enough room to describe all the projects, here are just a
few examples of studies from the five groups:
(i) Better diagnosis?
finding better ways to diagnose MS:
Tissue is being supplied to the MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) Unit at the Institute of Neurology,
this project, a slice of brain containing MS lesions is scanned using new
technology. The lesions are then dissected out, examined under the microscope
and compared to the image. This allows any changes on the MR image to be
directly compared with what is going on in the brain, helping to set up
methods that can later be used in patients. These studies may allow different
types of MS to be identified by MRI and may help identify groups of patients
that respond favourably to a particular therapy.
starts it all off?
identifying the initial changes in an MS lesion:
The formation of an MS lesion can be thought of as a cascade of events that
culminate in demyelination. A research group based in Belfast believes that an early step in the
formation of a lesion is a subtle change in cells called microglia that are
normally resident in the brain. The group is characterising microglia in
brain tissue from MS patients containing lesions at different stages of
development, MS tissue without any lesions and tissue from people that did
not have MS. This study will help us find out whether changes in the
microglia start the formation of an MS lesion.
Is a virus a
Although the exact cause of MS is unknown, it has long been suggested that
viruses may trigger the disease. The problem is that viruses are difficult to
detect in tissue but a group at the Royal
in London has
overcome this problem by developing a very sensitive test for viruses. They
are using the technique to see if the virus HHV6 (Human Herpes virus 6) is
present in MS lesions. Identifying the agent that triggers the formation of a
lesion would be necessary for the development of strategies for neutralising
the causative agent.
is the key messenger?
finding critical chemical messengers:
Chemical messengers released by cells within a developing lesion are central
to the cascade of events leading to demyelination. Understanding the role of
these molecules is the goal of a number of projects supported by the Tissue
Bank. This research could form the basis of developing ways of knocking out
the critical messenger(s) and stopping the cascade.
exactly damages myelin?
identifying the factors that damage myelin:
It is generally believed that components of the immune system are responsible
for damaging myelin in MS. The immune system has a large armoury that it
normally uses to combat bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasitic worms that are
continually trying to invade our bodies. It is thought that in MS the immune
system becomes overzealous and that as well as killing the invading
organisms, it starts to attack myelin. The question that a group in Cardiff is trying to
answer is which of the many components that the immune system has at its
disposal is used to damage myelin in MS.
(v) How can
we promote repair?
discovering factors that promote repair:
At the same time as finding an effective way of stopping any further damage
to myelin, we need to find ways of repairing the damage that has already been
caused. Our nervous systems have a natural ability to repair damaged myelin,
and replace cells (oligodendrocytes) that are destroyed in MS. It is the
oligodendrocytes that provide the myelin that insulates nerve fibres, and
when we examine MS lesions, we frequently find these cells trying to repair
the damaged myelin. Remyelination is therefore a naturally occurring process
and the questions that groups in Basel, Paris and at Charing Cross
Hospital in London are trying to answer are: why the
process is not able to repair all the demyelination and how we can encourage
repair in people that have MS?
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